Two Words Democrats May Regret
If you vote Democratic, this is the commercial you don’t want to see:
“In 2017, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency stopped 7,000 pounds of heroin from entering America, as well as 2,300 pounds of fentanyl, a drug so deadly just a few grams can be lethal.
“To dismantle criminal gangs and keep America safe, ICE agents made more than 143,000 arrests, and 92 percent of those taken into custody were aliens with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges, or were immigration fugitives or illegal re-entrants.
“The agency also stopped 2,000 human traffickers from entering our borders, rescuing more than 900 abused children who were forced into virtual slavery.
“Now, one party in Congress is turning its back on this agency.
“In a recent vote, 9 out of 10 Democrats refused to support a simple measure in the House of Representatives that defends this crucial arm of law enforcement and admonishes efforts to abolish ICE.
“So, when you vote on Nov. 6, just ask yourself: Which party is more committed to keeping America safe?”
For voters who are neither hard-core Democratic nor Republican and therefore can be swayed, you can see how such a message can be lethal to Democratic hopes of regaining the House.
And yet, a growing movement is afoot among progressives to “Abolish ICE.” This movement has become so noisy it is spooking Democratic politicians who should know better. That may explain why on July 17, only 18 House Democrats voted to support ICE and admonish efforts to abolish the agency. Evidently, they didn’t want to alienate angry activists.
This movement has become so noisy it is spooking Democratic politicians who should know better.
In an analysis in The New York Times, Alexander Burns writes that this new faction is “increasingly rattling primary elections around the country, and they promise to grow as a disruptive force in national elections as younger voters reject the traditional boundary lines of Democratic politics.”
These voters, he adds, are also “seeking to remake their own party as a ferocious — and ferociously liberal — opposition force. And many appear as focused on forcing progressive policies into the midterm debate as they are on defeating Republicans.”
Abolishing ICE is not the only policy they’re forcing into the midterm debate (there are others, such as single-payer health care), but it is clearly their most emotional and visible cause. The images of migrant children being separated from parents as part of President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy were traumatizing. An angry response was to be expected, and ICE was an easy target.
This lashing out at ICE, however, is political suicide.
“Democrats are making a massive political mistake by calling for the end of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” Princeton Professor Julian Zelizer writes on the CNN website. Why is it a blunder? Because “the strategy shifts attention away from Trump and his hardline policies and toward the issue of government reorganization.”
In other words, the “Abolish ICE” movement lets Trump off the hook. Instead of focusing on his radical and extreme ways, it allows Republicans to focus their message on law enforcement. Every “Abolish ICE” demonstration becomes a de facto commercial in favor of Republicans who value public safety.
The irony is that my biggest beef with the anti-Trump movement has been that it doesn’t offer ideas or solutions — it just bashes Trump. Finally, when it decides to champion a solution, it picks the one most likely to backfire. It sticks its neck out in front of a guillotine.
This blunder is more about strategy than policy. It may well be that abolishing ICE can be justified as part of comprehensive and reasonable immigration reform. But it is anger and extremism, not reason and compromise, that come across in the “Abolish ICE” movement. And the rhetoric is only getting worse: Just last week, in her new Netflix show, comedian Michelle Wolf compared ICE to ISIS.
The “Abolish ICE” movement lets Trump off the hook. Instead of focusing on his radical and extreme ways, it allows Republicans to focus their message on law enforcement.
Such merchants of hysteria, who seem to be feasting on all the media attention, are forgetting that their goal should be to win back the House, not turn off swing voters. It’s a sign of how these activists are losing their heads that, given the juicy target of Trump and his zero-tolerance policy, they picked ICE instead.
As Zelizer writes: “In 2018, Democrats who are angry about the ongoing attacks on undocumented immigrants, as well as legal immigration, don’t really need anything more to rally around. They already have Trump and his blistering rhetoric, and they have the extraordinarily harsh policy of separating children from their families — which, though the President has ended, still remains an issue since more than 2,000 immigrant kids remain in limbo.”
This is the problem with losing your head. You tend to lose voters and you tend to write great commercials — for the other side.
Follow David Suissa on Twitter: @suissatweets